Murkowski activates National Guard to help with Kenai fires

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2004

KENAI - Gov. Frank Murkowski said he will activate 53 Air National Guard troops to support fire suppression efforts on the Kenai Peninsula and in the Interior.

In addition, Murkowski is sending an Air National Guard UH60 Black Hawk helicopter and a C-23 Sherpa fixed-wing aircraft to the peninsula to help with the Glacier Creek Fire, now raging within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Two more UH60s Black Hawks will be sent to Fort Wainwright, where they would be available to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources if needed, said Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg.

"The National Guard units can be activated for two weeks," Hultberg said. "There was a similar call-up earlier in the summer when about 90 troops, six helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft and several heavy trucks were called up to fires in the Interior."

Efforts to suppress the growing Glacier Creek fire aren't being helped by the continuing hot and dry conditions and the presence of large stands of beetle-killed spruce, Hultberg said.

The Division of Forestry reported Monday that winds from the southeast had increased the northern perimeter of the blaze Sunday evening, sending smoke drifting down Tustumena Lake into Kasilof and Soldotna.

The fire crossed Indian Creek about one mile upstream from the lake, increasing in size by about 150 acres to an estimated 1,650 acres.

Firefighters have set up sprinkler systems around cabins and outbuildings near the mouth of Indian Creek. Those systems will remain in place in case the fire approaches the cabins.

Currently, Emma Lake and Moose Creek trails are closed to access into the Tustumena benchlands, and hunters and hikers are discouraged from entering the area, the division said.

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